Hydrogen will play a bigger role in the transition to a green future — but only with government cooperation.

To make clean-burning hydrogen economically viable, governments will have to double what they charge companies to pollute, and currently most countries don’t charge anything, Bloomberg reported, citing a BloombergNEF report. If those costs are boosted, power plants that run on hydrogen will be able to compete with those burning carbon-based fuels such as natural gas by 2050, the report said.

“There probably wasn’t a week in 2019 where I didn’t talk to a customer about hydrogen or decarbonization,” Jeffrey Goldmeer, director of gas-turbine combustion and fuels solutions at General Electric Co.’s gas power unit, told Bloomberg. “We’ve been burning fuels that contain hydrogen for more than 30 years. So there is existing technology to do so.”

Burning hydrogen produces no emissions and the fuel is nearly inexhaustible since it can be  derived from water. Still, current production involves pulling it from methane — natural gas  — using energy-intensive methods. Green hydrogen might be produced with excess renewable power, then transported by pipeline to underground storage and then used in periods when renewable electricity generation is low. 

Emission prices need to rise to $55 per ton of carbon dioxide for the plan to work, the BNEF report said, adding that the howed. Currently, a “weighted carbon price” is $22.59 a ton, Bloomberg said, citing IHS Markit’s Global Carbon Index.  

Combustion turbines are the most promising way to generate electricity from hydrogen, according to the study. Hydrogen is already burned, mostly at oil refineries and steel mills where it is a byproduct. Using it in existing turbines would produce nitrogen emissions and GE, Siemens AG and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems are among the companies developing technologies to curb emissions.

Researchers including the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory are looking at hydrogen for possible heating, energy storage and fuel cells applications.

  • Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics said on Jan. 10 that they will use hydrogen to fuel the Olympic cauldron. Plans were already announced to use hydrogen to power the 6,000-unit Olympic village, transport athletes and fuel the Olympic torch at the start of the relay.
  • A U.S. switch to a hydrogen-powered economy will generate an estimated $140 billion per year in revenue and support 700,000 jobs by 2030, a McKinsey study published by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association showed.